Struggling companies that come to Washington D.C. seeking a financial bailout shouldn’t appeal to the White House.
Head to nearby Redskins Park instead and beg Daniel Snyder for a loan.
If the nation’s tough economic times are hitting his franchise, the Redskins owner isn’t showing it. Six hours after the free-agent signing period began early Friday morning, Snyder’s squad already had signed defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and cornerback DeAngelo Hall to staggeringly high contracts.
Haynesworth received the best deal of any player in NFL history — a seven-year, $100 million contract that includes a league-record $41 million in guaranteed money. A source said the former Tennessee Titans standout could earn another $15 million through incentives.
Hall reportedly scored a six-year, $54 million deal that includes $23 million in guarantees. The contract was so large that it’s believed to have had a chilling effect on other teams at the start of free agency because the market value for cornerbacks had changed. Suddenly, the $13 million signing bonus and $6.5 million per-season average I heard Atlanta’s Dominique Foxworth was going to get offered by Baltimore had become relative chump change. Foxworth ultimately signed for a $6.8 million average and $16.5 million guaranteed.
Snyder’s spending comes across as economically brash — particularly for a franchise that laid off at least 23 front-office employees last month. Even if each worker was earning $1,000,000 a year, that savings would barely be enough to cover Hall’s guarantee.
Washington fans won’t care. They’re as desperate to win a Super Bowl as Snyder, whose team hasn’t made an NFC championship game appearance in his 10 seasons of ownership.
Both players — especially Haynesworth — should move the Redskins closer to that goal. Haynesworth is the rare lineman who, at 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, is big enough to dominate inside yet so athletic that he can effectively pressure quarterbacks as a pass-rushing end. Defensive tackle was Washington’s most pressing area of need entering free agency and Haynesworth was the best available bar none. Hall reached two Pro Bowls while with Atlanta and doesn’t turn 26 until November.
But as we’ve seen from the Redskins before, the biggest names don’t always generate the best results. Consider the bold, high-priced personnel acquisitions Snyder has made this decade. Among them were Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Laveranues Coles, Clinton Portis, London Fletcher, Randy Thomas, Jason Taylor and Shawn Springs (he was released Friday to clear salary-cap space for Hall and Haynesworth).
The net result in the past nine seasons: Two postseason appearances, one playoff victory and an overall record of 67-80.
Regardless of Haynesworth’s talent, sinking so much money into one player may not be wise. The Titans, who know Haynesworth better than any other team after seven seasons, weren’t willing to spend that much dough on a player that skeptics believe will get doughy now that he landed a major payoff. The Detroit Lions, where former Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is now head coach, also didn’t get seriously into the bidding for Haynesworth’s services despite their defensive line needs.
Last offseason, it appeared Snyder was done playing fantasy football. Washington didn’t make any major personnel splashes. The Redskins even held onto their draft choices rather than trade them away, resulting in the franchise’s highest number of picks (10) since 2002.
Snyder, though, ultimately reverted to form. He made a desperation training-camp trade for Taylor, sending a 2009 second-round choice to Miami on the same day starting DE Phillip Daniels suffered a season-ending leg injury. Unable to stay healthy himself, Taylor had the least productive season of his 12-year NFL career. Due a $9 million base salary in 2009 at age 34, Taylor is a potential cap casualty as well.
Hall signed a one-year contract with the Redskins midway through last season. Released after just eight games in Oakland, he was considered the most costly bust for a franchise that made plenty of other bad player investments in 2008. Hall had redeemed himself enough in Washington to have generated strong free-agent interest this offseason, but he probably wouldn’t have received anywhere near the caliber of contract tendered by the Redskins.
Never mind that the two teams in Super Bowl XLIII — Pittsburgh and Arizona — were built primarily through the draft. Snyder simply couldn’t resist the temptation to ink star power like Haynesworth and Hall in the hopes of getting over the hump, especially because there will be no salary cap in 2010 if the NFL doesn’t strike a new collective bargaining agreement with its players union.
These signings were a major gamble. And better than anyone, Snyder should know there will be no government assistance coming his way if it fails to pay off.